Sprawl devours land in Colorado at the alarming rate of ten acres per hour, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times. While the bulk of that consumption may come in the form of sacrifices to metro Denver, our precious Rocky Mountains also feel the effect. As ranch land is carved into subdivisions and rivers are frequently dammed, Colorado's greatest landmarks fall under increased attack. In The Great Divide: The Rocky Mountains in the American Mind, author Gary Ferguson traces the history of the range, from its creation to the present day. As its subtitle implies, The Great Divide pays special attention to the status of the Rocky Mountains in the American mentality, lamenting the perilous fate of our purple mountains' majesty while also telling of its glory. Ferguson will discuss his book and illuminate it with a slide show at 5:30 p.m. today at the Claggett-Rey Gallery, 100 East Meadow Drive in Vail. Admission is free; for directions, call the Vail Symposium, 1-970-476-0954.
Friday, July 2
Spark Gallery, a standout among Denver's alternative spaces and the longest continually operating contemporary-art venue in the city, closes its doors on Platte Street today and settles into new digs at 900 Santa Fe Drive. The new building, formerly occupied by Fresh Art, is smack-dab in the center of the Golden Triangle -- ground zero for the often raucous First Friday art tours. Accordingly, Spark will stay open until 9 p.m. to accommodate the estimated 600 to 1,500 people typically out reveling in the streets. The gallery's first exhibit in its new home, a members' show displaying the work of 26 artists, provides a good introduction for those not familiar with the 25-year-old co-op. Although the official reception is not until July 9, the buzz of a new space coupled with a First Friday could cause Spark to come dangerously close to igniting tonight. Call 303-455-4435 for details.
Saturday, July 3
The folks at High Country Harley-Davidson and Boulder Harley-Davidson believe that before we celebrate our nation's independence this year, we should give something back to all those who have fought for it. To that end, the two shops, along with the Harley Owners Group Chapter 422, will present the sixteenth annual DAV Benefit Poker Run, a patriotic five-leg motorcycle jaunt that includes stops at the Boulder American Legion and a VFW post before winding down at the Longmont Moose Lodge, 2210 Pratt Street; the day's proceeds will benefit disabled veterans. All are welcome, and those who don't wish to ride can go straight to the lodge for roast pig, refreshments and entertainment. The run costs $15 per person and $25 per couple; registration is from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the High Country Harley dealership, 3761 Monarch Street in Frederick. Call 303-833-6777 to sign up.
Sunday, July 4
What do Uncle Sam, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln have in common? Other than their iconic status in America, the three will appear together at the Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration at Four Mile Historic Park, 715 South Forest Street, this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Independence Day celebration at Denver's oldest standing structure will also feature readings from the Declaration of Independence, performances by the Denver Concert Band, drill practice by the Colorado Volunteer Infantry, and surprisingly life-like blazing effigies of prominent Whig leaders. Okay, no effigies -- it's a family affair, after all. But there will be food, crafts, stories of mountain men and Native Americans, and horse-drawn-wagon rides for all. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for students and seniors; kids under five admitted free. For details, call 303-399-1859.
As the sun sets on July 4th in Denver, the pyrotechnics erupt for the definitively American celebration of independence marked by igniting gunpowder (a Chinese invention). This year, Invesco Field at Mile High takes the lead in re-creating the rockets' red glare, and numerous local venues offer patriotic gawkers perches for watchin' them purty lights. But Tamayo restaurant, 1400 Larimer Street, boldly proclaims that its rooftop terrace has this year's best view of the 'works. Though that assertion may be difficult to prove, it's easy to swallow when accompanied by all-you-can-eat tacos, ceviche and guacamole. A DJ will provide beats in the lull between explosions. Tickets, $25 in advance or $30 tonight, entitle guests to one specialty cocktail and all the food they can hold. For reservations, call 720-946-1433.
Monday, July 5
The Stinky Cheese Man, the second play in the Aurora Fox Arts Center's summer children's series, opens today. In keeping with the theater's summer theme of irreverence, the production, adapted from the popular John Scieska children's book of the same title, presents parodies of common fairy tales. Two dueling narrators, Jack and the Beanstalk's Jack and the notorious fox from several children's yarns, most notably The Gingerbread Man, take on hosting duties as Cheese Man weaves between stories, confusing and distorting classic characters and motifs as it goes. The show features an all-youth cast, using a child's viewpoint to highlight the craziness of the adult world. The Aurora Fox is at 9900 East Colfax Avenue; showtimes are 10 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, through July 16. For tickets, $4 to $6, call 303-739-1970.